By Brenna Greene
Class of 2014
SPOKANE, Wash. — The adage that success breeds success holds true for the Gonzaga women’s basketball team. The Zags made their fourth-straight trip – fifth in six years – to the NCAA Tournament last season and reached the Sweet 16 for the third-straight year. They aim to capture an unprecedented ninth-straight regular-season West Coast Conference title when WCC play begins Jan. 3 against San Diego. The Zags’ best season was 2010-11 when they reached the Elite Eight.
The Bulldogs add three Pacific-12 Conference opponents (Washington State, Stanford, and Southern California) and two Big Ten Conference opponents (Wisconsin and Ohio State) to an already grueling league slate. The WSU, Stanford, Wisconsin, and Ohio State games all will be played at the Kennel, a decided advantage.
“Those are the kind of games we have to win in order to get a better (NCAA Tournament) seed,” says junior guard Haiden Palmer, one of the team’s returning starters. “They’re definitely going to be some tough games. We have to be on our ‘A’ game and play hard, but they’re going to be great.” The Zags also will compete in the Hardwood Tournament of Hope Nov. 20-22 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico against some of the nation’s top programs – including Louisville and Missouri State.
The Bulldogs return two starters from last season, Palmer and senior guard Taelor Karr. Palmer had a breakout year last season as the 2011-2012 WCC Co-Newcomer of the Year, as a member of the WCC All-Tournament Team, and All-WCC Honorable Mention. She led the team in three pointers made (52) and steals (78). She also ranked third on the team scoring (12.4 points a game). Palmer says her personal goal this year is not to boost her statistics as much as bringing out the best in her teammates.
“We have a young team,” she said, adding she looks forward to “getting everybody together and bringing out the good in my teammates and myself.”
Karr also returns from a banner season after leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.67). Karr transferred from Kansas State a year ago and made an immediate impact, leading the team with 152 assists and ranking second for three-pointers made (46). She also had five or more assists in 18 of the Bulldogs’ games last season.
Three women to keep an eye on are juniors Stephanie Golden and Jazmine Redmon and sophomore Sunny Greinacher. Golden left high school in Clayton, Calif., ranked 18th at the center position by ESPN Hoop Gurlz. In the last two years as a Zag, she has played in a combined 54 games and last year had a career high of 15 points versus Portland. Palmer says Golden “can basically score at will.”
Redmon, a product of Spokane’s Mead High School, was seventh in the nation last year in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.27) and was fourth in steals for the Zags. She played in all 34 games last season and started in six.
Greinacher, from Essen, Germany, played in all 34 games last season and was named to the WCC All- Freshman team while shooting better than 53 percent from the field.
While this is one of the younger teams in recent Gonzaga history, it’s deep in talent with a rich winning tradition.